I had a chance to talk with Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, and get his thoughts on last week’s Senior Bowl, including a couple players who helped themselves heading into April’s draft
And at the top of Rang’s list was Cal receiver Marvin Jones, who he believes elevated his draft stock with a solid performance during practices and in the game on Saturday.
“The one guy that immediately jumps out is Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones,” Rang said. “During the week of practice he was the best receiver on the field. He was kind of thought of as just a guy. A 6-2, 200 pounds, he was a good looking player and caught everything thrown to him.”
However, Jones did suffer a knee injury during the game, which could affect his draft evaluation down the road.
Along with Jones, Rang said fellow Pac-12 receiver Jeron Criner of Arizona played well.
“He had a strong week,” Rang said. “He’s a big, strong kid, and he knows how to position himself when the ball is coming to him. He’s got kind of sneaky speed. He’s a pretty good route runner, and shows a little bit of a burst to get over the top of the defense. He’s a pretty good football player.”
Another player Rang came away impressed with during the week was Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin. At 6-3, 248 pounds, McClellin played exclusively defensive end for the Broncos, but played mostly linebacker during the week of practices at the Senior Bowl and impressed, according to Rang.
“There was a buzz about him,” Rang said. “I was stunned at how well he played in coverage.”
Rang said he had McClellin rated in the third to fourth round range, but is now hearing he could go in the second round, and perhaps sneak into the later portion of the first round because of his versatility.
Others who made some noise include a couple of small school corners – Dwight Bentley out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Furman’s Ryan Steed and Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama.
As far as the quarterback position, Rang said none of signal callers at the Senior Bowl really stood out.
And although Oklahoma Sate quarterback Brandon Weeden received some positive reviews from several draft analysts, Rang was not impressed with his overall play, and does not see Weeden as a good fit for the Seahawks.
“I question the fit for Seattle specifically, because he’s not a light-footed passer who is at his best on the move,” Rang said. “Once you make him move his feet, his accuracy plummeted.”
According to Rang, the top quarterback at the Senior Bowl was Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, who he believes is a good fit for Seattle because he has the mobility and intangibles the Seahawks covet.
In terms of running backs, Washington’s Chris Polk, considered the top back at the Senior Bowl heading into the week was a disappointment.
“He looked soft during the weigh-in,” Rang said. “It was disappointing. He’s a good football player. But his last two games I didn’t think he played with the same type of nastiness that he did throughout his career.
“He certainly was billed from everybody that I talked to as the No. 1 running back in the game, but he played like the third or fourth best I thought, unfortunately.”
Rang said Doug Martin of Boise State was probably the best running back in terms of overall consistency, and at 5-9, 215 pounds could be a fit for Seattle.
Another runner that showed some elusiveness and had some of the best runs of the week during practice was Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard, Rang said.
Rang believes running back is one of the strongest positions in the draft, and that Seattle could find another back to add to the mix behind Marshawn Lynch in the middle rounds.
Among the pass rushers, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples was a man among boys during the week.
“He’s the most talented player the field,” Rang said. “He’s as good as he wants to be. If he wants to be Julius Peppers, he could.
“He dominated first-round offensive lineman. He was better during practice than during the game, and I thought he was good during the game. Talk about a boom-or-bust pick – he is it this year.”
Rang said his No. 1 senior player is Alabama edge rusher Courtney Upshaw, who could play defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4.
“He’s just a good, physical player,” Rang said. “He uses his hands really well and locates the football really well. He just is not explosive with his initial burst off the snap.”
South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram rounds out the list of the top three pass rusher at the Senior Bowl. Ingram played mostly defensive tackle at South Carolina during his senior season, but projects as more of a defensive end in the NFL.
“He’s got really light feet,” Rang said about Ingram. “He’s much quicker than Upshaw, but doesn’t have the work that Upshaw does.”
Among the linebackers at the Senior Bowl, Rang came away impressed with the work of Utah State’s Bobby Wagner.
“I thought he helped himself,” Rang said. “He tied for the game lead with seven tackles, and had a pick. I think he’s more of a middle backer in the NFL. I don’t know if he’s athletic enough to be a weak-side guy. But he gets off of blocks well. He does a good job of being patient, an he has a closing speed that is pretty unique.
“He’s a second round guy, a guy that would compete for a starting job immediately. I would love to see Seattle take them.”
Because of the dearth of quarterbacks other than Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III rated as first round prospects, Rang sees the Seahawks taking a front seven defender in the first round right now.
“If there’s a quarterback there, obviously that is an area of concern for them,” he said. “But I don’t get the impression that they must go up and trade for RGIII. I think they feel like they’re closer than a lot of people give them credit for.
“I would be surprised if they draft another position other than a front seven defender. I just don’t think it’s likely they are going to trade up to get a quarterback. What I do see is a lot of defensive linemen are right there who are good football players, and there’s a bunch of them.”